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Ephedra distachya in France
Scientific classification

See text

Ephedra is a genus of gymnosperm shrubs, the only genus in the family Ephedraceae and order Ephedrales. These plants occur in dry climates over a wide area mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, across southern Europe, north Africa, southwest and central Asia, southwestern North America, and, in the Southern Hemisphere, in South America south to Patagonia. They are also called Joint-pine, Jointfir, or Mormon-tea. The Chinese name is Ma Huang. Ephedra is also sometimes called sea grape (from the French raisin de mer), although that is also a common name for Coccoloba uvifera.


The following list of species is from the Gymnosperm Database (http://www.botanik.uni-bonn.de/conifers/ep/ep/index.htm) page for Ephedra.

  • Ephedra alata Decne
  • Ephedra altissima Desf.
  • Ephedra antisyphilitica Berl. ex C.A.Meyer - Clapweed, Erect Ephedra
  • Ephedra aspera Engelm. ex S.Wats. - Boundary Ephedra, Pitamoreal
  • Ephedra californica S.Wats. - California Ephedra, California Jointfir
  • Ephedra coryi E.L.Reed - Cory's Ephedra
  • Ephedra cutleri Peebles - Navajo Ephedra, Cutler's Ephedra, Cutler Mormon-tea, Cutler's Jointfir
  • Ephedra distachya L. - Joint-pine, Jointfir
    • Ephedra distachya subsp. helvetica (C.A.Meyer) Aschers. & Graebn.
  • Ephedra equisetina Bunge - Ma huang
  • Ephedra fasciculata A.Nels. - Arizona Ephedra, Arizona Jointfir, Desert Mormon-tea
  • Ephedra fedtschenkoae Pauls.
  • Ephedra fragilis Desf.
    • Ephedra fragilis subsp. campylopoda (C.A.Meyer) Aschers. & Graebn.
  • Ephedra frustillata Miers - Patagonian Ephedra
  • Ephedra funerea Coville & Morton - Death Valley Ephedra, Death Valley Jointfir
  • Ephedra gerardiana Wallich ex C.A.Meyer - Gerard's Jointfir, Shan Ling Ma Huang
  • Ephedra intermedia Schrenk ex C.A.Meyer
  • Ephedra lepidosperma C.Y.Cheng
  • Ephedra likiangensis Florin
  • Ephedra macedonica Kos.
  • Ephedra major Host
    • Ephedra major subsp. procera Fischer & C.A.Meyer
  • Ephedra minuta Florin
  • Ephedra monosperma C.A.Meyer
  • Ephedra nevadensis S.Wats. - Nevada Ephedra, Nevada Jointfir, Nevada Mormon-tea
  • Ephedra pedunculata Engelm. ex S.Wats. - Vine Ephedra, Vine Jointfir
  • Ephedra przewalskii Stapf
    • Ephedra przewalskii var. kaschgarica (B.Fedtsch. & Bobr.) C.Y.Cheng
  • Ephedra regeliana Florin - Xi Zi Ma Huang
  • Ephedra saxatilis (Stapf) Royle ex Florin
  • Ephedra sinica Stapf - Ma Huang, Chinese ephedra
  • Ephedra torreyana S.Wats. - Torrey's Ephedra, Torrey's Jointfir, Torrey's Mormon-tea, Caņutillo
  • Ephedra trifurca Torrey ex S.Wats. - Longleaf Ephedra, Longleaf Jointfir, Longleaf Mormon-tea, Popotilla, Teposote
  • Ephedra viridis Coville - Green Ephedra, Green Mormon-tea

Uses and health concerns

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Ephedra distachya

These plants have traditionally been used by indigenous people for a variety of medicinal purposes, and are a likely candidate for the Soma plant of Indo-Iranian religion. The alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are considered to be the active constituents of the herb. Ephedrine is considered a performance-enhancing drug and is prohibited in most competitive sports.

Beginning in the 1990s, concerns about the safety of Ephedra and Ephedra-based products began to be publicly raised. As Ephedra is a herb, products containing it were marketed as dietary supplements and therefore were exempt from FDA regulation in the United States. Ephedra was found in many popular weight control products, some of which the FDA believed may be hazardous. Sympathomimetic amines such as ephedrine raise heart rate and blood pressure and can be particularly hazardous to those with pre-existing cardiac problems.

According to the FDA, 155 deaths can be blamed on Ephedra, most of them related to cardiac problems and strokes. However, many advocates of Ephedra maintain that it is safe when used as directed, and continue to regard it as a dietary supplement rather than as a drug. Health food store GNC banned ephedra-containing products in June 2003, and the National Football League banned players from using it as a dietary supplement in 2001.

On December 30 2003, the US Food and Drug Administration announced a ban (effective from 12 April 2004) on the uncontrolled sale of supplement products containing Ephedra, citing "an unreasonable risk of illness or injury" from the use of the drug. Synthetic ephedrine is still available as an ingredient in some over the counter (OTC) medications that are clearly labeled in accordance with FDA regulations. Bulk ephedra herb (such as that used in traditional Chinese medicine) not specifically marketed for human consumption is not under the jurisdiction of the FDA and is therefore unaffected. Several states have enacted their own laws regarding the sale of ephedra and ephedra-based products, some stricter than the non-statutory FDA regulation. On 14 April 2005, this ban was struck down on procedural grounds by Utah federal judge Tena Campbell [1] (http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/04/14/ephedra.suit.ap/index.html).

In the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the Argentine footballer Diego Armando Maradona tested positive for ephedrine in a doping control for using one dietary supplement product containing the substance.

External links

fr:Raisin de mer it:Ephedra pt:Ephedrales


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